Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day out on the Namma Metro

My initial curiosity towards the Namma Metro project was not very high as I was not able to relate to most of the places in Bengaluru being a newcomer and neither could I appreciate the benefits it would bring in due to lack of knowledge of the topography unlike Chennai. As days neared for the opening of this Public Transportation marvel, i was waiting do my first metro fanning session.

After many a dilly dallying, the Namma Metro was finally opened to public, the stretch though just 6.7km in length was a big leap for public transportation in Bangalore. The day metro was opened, SSC-India was abuzz with good coverage from the forumers and I was really impressed with photo sets shared by individuals and was charged up to cover the section before a blanket ban comes on photography in the metro terminals. Media talked about the huge crowds that were thronging the metro stations and I had to be bit careful in planning. Got in touch with a forumer who had done the section and he gave me some good tips to do the journey.

Having spent some good time in Chennai which is blessed with a good multi model transport system, I was always at discomfort not seeing such a rapid system in Bangalore where the 6000 odd BMTC buses have to jostle their way among the pile of cars and not to quote the unruly two wheeler lot. Having traveled often in the suburban system of Chennai, the idea of a mass rapid system was not new to me, but the same concept with additional passenger amenities like air conditioned coaches, clean stations which are well guarded and have high penetration of technology into the ticketing system and operations was something I was totally new to.

MG Road Namma Metro Station

Namma Metro Logo

Armed with some basic idea i started my Diwali day and my plan was to start from the MG Road station. Lean crowds at the station were a big respite, browsed through the displays in the station with regards to the tickets and finally decided to buy a Varshik prepaid card. The counter staff was helpful enough to give some info on the usage of cards at the terminals. The card cost me a one time payment of rupees fifty and thereafter 50X recharges were possible. Icing on the cake is the 15% discount that these cards offer for every journey you undertake using these cards. I crossed the gates by swiping my card which showed the balance, people who just wanted a single journey had to show their tokens to be allowed into the platform area.

Metro Varshik Prepaid Card

Platforms were pretty clean and looked more functional. Electronic boards on the platforms give sufficient information about the train operations though some amount of awareness is required to understand them. I will try to showcase the various display announcements meant for the passenger that are dished out in the stations premises and on board the metro cars in this write up.(My Picasa album though would be the best place to take a tour of this system)

Every other person present was a curious tourist and few were on a family outing to check out the newcomer to their beloved city. Too many guards were posted on the platforms to help people and again to keep in check the unruly kid who pops out in such anxious moments in people of India. I went to the corner of a platform to avoid bit of the crowd and made ready my camera to shoot the blue eyed boy who will land any time. The security guard came to me requested me to shut down my camera with a couple of pics. I obliged and there I had my first darshan of a metro rake in my life. The train looked very neatly done.

Functional platforms with markings on floor for pax entry/exit

A typical metro platform with lot of signages. Notice the third rail (yellow) one which supplies the power to the rake

Few Digital boards in the station area:

A display board indicating the arrival of train in 8mins heading to MG Rd station

Next train to Baiyapanahalli is at 10:12hrs reads the board

My first close spotting of the metro rake, the purple color around the coach indicates this one to be part fo the purple line

A map of the Metro section:

Source: Namma Metro official site

Namma Metro system is based on a the Standard gauge with a third rail running along supplying the power to propel the coaches. Being the second metro post liberalization era, it had lot of it's learning's from its mentor the Delhi Metro which even had to accept the Broad Gauge rail initially due to the pressure from IR. The current section that has been opened to traffic runs from MG Road to Baiyapanahalli(which will serve the purpose of yard with maintenance facilities). The current section is fully overhead and is part of the Purple line that is planned to run from Mysore Road station to Baiyapanahalli. The idea is basically to connect two ends of the Outer Ring Road.

Interiors of the metro coach

The metro coach is neatly designed one with seating arrangement only on the sides which serves the purpose of carrying more passengers. Currently three car formations are running and have a carrying capacity of 1000 people per formation. The coaches were buit by a consortium of BEML, Hyundai-Rotem and Mistubishi Electric. Mitsubishi supplied the traction for the coaches, Hyundai-Rotem the components and BEML took the task to integrate, test and commission the coaches.

I got into the first car of the formation and pulled out my camera, took some pics of the coach. Initial acceleration of the coach is too good to throw you off your balance and then the ride becomes smooth and noiseless due to the ballast-less track. I put my cam into the video mode and covered the section till 6th minute of the journey. Meanwhile there were enough curious eyes trying to understand what on earth is this guy doing on the metro instead of enjoying the ride. Having faced such glares enough in my fanning sessions, i just went on doing my usual act to capture as much as possible of the coach features. Will try to put some here ...

looks interesting right...the multiple bars enable more people to grab it! What an idea SirJi!!

Information dished out to the passengers on board the metro:

Arrival announcement at a station

Karnataka Tourism Promos on board

Destination details of the trip

Information on the arrival of stations, the end point and other areas of caution a passenger need to exert while using the coach are also announced in the coach. As the entire lot out on the train were end to end travelers, not much people got down at the way side stations. You could hear fathers showing the kids the various landmarks of the city through the big glass windows. Also on board were people from all walks of life who wanted to have a feel of this new baby in town which they hope will one day make Bangalore a commuter friendly city. Cruising at 60-65kmph without obstacles was a new experience for many inside the heart of the city.

The curves present on the Bangalore metro are bit sharp due to narrow roads and unlike the Delhi metro where the minimum curve is 200 degree, namma metro has a tough task of encountering a minimum of 120 degree curves. Due to these curves of high order, CRS has clamped a maximum of only 6 cars per formation limit.

Few sharp curves i came across:

a sharp curve before the Swami Vivekananda Rd station

14 minutes passed in a jiffy and the unheard thing happened, i had covered 6.7kms distance in the heart of the Bangalore city in 14 minutes flat. The best part being, being this travel time would be flat irrespective of the part of the day. Should sound irresistible to Bangaloreans who should have taken 30-40mins doing this in buses or autos.

Getting out of the train, i saw an army of security guards guiding people to exit gates. Only soar point that i could observe here was the inablity of our people to behave bit organized in such situations. People jostled before the exit swipe gates and took double the time to exit than if they had formed a queue. Our people are our people you see them at Baiyapanahallli or at the Heathrow airport !!

Heading out of the platform area was a huge ramp which lead to the station building. The ramps give a good view of the maintenance infrastructure in the form of coaching depots which look huge and well planned. Took some shots of the facility and found it hard to move out as there was too much to observe and digest for that day. The fire truck which runs on the rails was tucked away in its shed and few metro rakes were being attended to in their pit lines. Having completed the first leg of the journey, i was bit dissappointed with not being allowed to take pictures at this last station.

Metro Yard

Pit Lines

Pit Lines on the other side of the station

Old Madras Rd Side view of the Baiyapanahalli Station

Unique Fire Engine of the Namma Metro

Baiyapanahalli Station

After spending some time at the Baiyapanahalli station, i decided to get down at one of the in between stations to have a feel of the trains crossing a station and also take pics if it was a sort of deserted station. Trinity fitted the bill and made my way back on the train heading the MG Rd station. Was very happy to see a nearly empty station and took some shots of the metro approaching and passing with minimal hindrance...Spent some time understanding and asking some questions to the metro staff of the Triniy station who were not that busy due to lean crowds over there.

Metro rake zipping past the Trinity station

Metro brothers posing together at Trinity station

With some contention of completing this landmark section, i took the next train to MG road station.

In all this fanning session of mine was a memorable one being altogether new mode of transport. I have put down the pics i could grab that day with detailed explanation in my Picasa album. People who still feel hungry for information can jump into it. If you still need more, check out my YouTube video for 6 min which i have recorded during my journey.

Picasa Album link: Namma Metro @ Picasa

You tube Video link: Namma Metro @ Youtube

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Spa of South this time!

Attending a marriage in Kovilpatti was on the cards and a day to spare before that meant something good to plan as five of us were game for the trip. Courtallam looked the best bet considering the peak season that prevails there in July.

After a tiresome journey from Bangalore to Tenkasi and we landed bit late to start our day. You can feel the winds from the Shencottah pass easily when you approach Podhigai hills and this time I had my own doubts on the season as I kept looking at the kms as we neared Tenkasi and only scorching morning sun was welcoming us all the way. We got into a Hotel next to the bus station and got ready for that days fun …I would not do justice to our trip if I miss to mention "Hygiene Mama" tag Kannan had aptly put up for Santhosh based on the earlier trips. And this time around we were in for a new addition, he wanted to take bath in the hotel before going to the Courtallam falls and was very adament on that. Hmmm, sila samayam appadi thaaan.

Morning view of the Pothigai Hills from our Hotel

We hired an auto for the day and enquired about flow level in the falls. We got different set of answers from people in Tenkasi whomever we asked. The typical kuttrala saral was also missing and we proceeded with our fingers crossed to the Old falls. Gosh !! to our horror the flow at Old falls was so poor that our hotel shower could have done more justice as there were enough people fighting for that small flow falling down. We decided to check out the main falls next as we were told by people that, flow of water was bit ok there.

Sorry pic of the Old Falls

We had some jack fruits and we decided to try out the pathini being sold. Pathini here was one of the best one I ever had and the best part was the tender palm fruit that was smashed along with the Pathini. This combo as per the vendor had the power to set right stomach ailments. These words kept ringing thro' my mind the whole day and i had 6 courses of it!

Pathini guy and the curious eyes

Main Falls with some decent flow

Crowds jostling for their share, spirit of India!

We proceeded to the main falls and were welcomed to some satisfactory flow. Me and Kannan had a quick Oil massage and dashed to the falls to jostle with the crowd for our rightful share of water.

Jagan also came by, but still Santhosh and Madhu were unconvinced with the flow of water and the mad crowds fighting their way. Police supervised bath is what you get in Courtallam if you land in the season and its better to take it as Spirit of India and jump into the crowd. Less water + huge crowds is the worst possible combo you should not encounter any day. Three of us braved our way two – three times into the crowd and ensured that at least the oil on our body had been done away with. Whatever small time we had, taking bath in the gushing waters was an experience in itself.

Five Falls, no comment on the crowd, its all to see.

Next we proceeded to the Five falls to try our luck and lady luck had decided to betray us totally this time. Some 100-150 people were standing in batches waiting for their turn.

Fruits on display, many of them forest ones.

Route we took to the Kundaru Dam

Serene waters of the dam

I felt very much guilty seeing Madhu and Santhosh yet to wet their feet having come to the Spa of the south.
We had good lunch and were contemplating our plans for the rest of the day and now I wanted to try the last astra I had on my hand. Called up Sathya who is a native of Tenkasi to see what else can be done to salvage the day. He heard my bad experience for the day and suggested “Kanni Puli Mettu” which he said was a wild stream near the Kundaru Dam. Promptly we decided to take a shot and directed our vehicle to the Dam. The path towards to the place was a welcome respite from the bustling crowds and looked so prefect a spot to just lie down and take rest for eternity.

We reached the Kundaru Dam and bit of a spill over crowd from Courtallam had made its way to here as well but looked manageable. Further enquires leads us to a stream which feeds the Kundaru Dam. We decided to explore it further upstream and it was indeed interesting as crowd diminished as we kept going further. Roughly were some 1 to 1.5 kms inside and stared enjoying the micro falls that were formed in the course of the stream. Water was very fresh and its flow was decent enough to make us all take a plunge. There were privately held estates on either sides of the stream. We kept exploring one spot or the other and never realized the three hours we spent there. Finally I escaped from the curse of two others who so far had not ventured into any of the regular falls.

We decided to call it a day and reached back to the hotel and got ready to visit the Tenkasi Kasi Viswanthar temple before starting our journey to Kovilpatti. Strong breeze welcomes you in the temple blowing in from the Western Ghats. After having a darshan I sat calmly with the locals near the gopura enjoying the breeze in lawn set along the exit. After twenty odd minutes of natural + man made wonder (read the below information board ) I proceeded to buy some halwa from the Purathan Krishna Lala Kadai (estd. 1904) for Sathya who rates this above the Iruttu Kadai one.

The gopura of Kasi Viswanathar Temple at Tenkasi

We attended the wedding at Kovilpatti and second half of the day at our disposal, two of us decided to make our way to the Nellai appar temple.

Iruttu Kadai - sadly closed

Reaching the spot we decided to try buy some halwa at the Iruttu kadai as we were in time join the queue that builds up before they open for the day, sorry “before they open for the evening”. Lady luck smiled the other way and we discovered that holiday had been declared that day for the shop. We proceeded to visit the Nellai Appar temple. This was the first time I was visiting this temple and the place had lot to offer to any person coming with devotion and inquisitive eyes. We had the Darshan of Nellai Appar (Shiva) and proceeded to have the darshan of Nellai Govindar. I am often intrigued by the Shivite - Vishnavite hostility stories and in contrast how these big Shiva temples have a Vishnu shrine just next to the main Shiva Shrine. A temple employee was giving a brief to the people once they complete the darshan of the main deity about the unique posture of Nellai Govindan wherein he is in sleeping posture rather than the usual Anantha Sayana. The following legend associated with this city was of great interest -

“a poor brahmin called Veda Sharma used to beg for paddy as his alms. The alms he gathered thus were put to dry in sunlight, after which he removed the husk. This was then cooked and this cooked rice called Havis was then offered to the Lord. One day, while he was drying the paddy, it suddenly started to rain heavily. Veda Sharma started praying to the Lord and the merciful Venu Vana Nathar took pity on him and protected the paddy not only from the rain by covering it, but by also standing around it like a fence. Hence, He is also called Nelliappar and the place was thus called Thiru (beautiful), Nel (paddy) and Veli (fence). The place earlier addressed as Venu Vanam was thus changed to Thirunelveli.”

Gopura of the Nellai Appar Temple

Pillared corridor of the Temple

Sculptures on the temple car

Had our darshan of Kanthimathi amman and spent some time exploring the temple which was not enough though. We proceeded next taking an auto to the Nellai Junction. The pep talks what you hear at times from locals is interesting and this time it was the autowallah who conveyed his grievance of the town not developing after 15 years it being declared a corporation. He showed us with pride the two tier Thiruvalluvar Bridge which is Asia’s second largest one. He not only dropped us but helped us identify our bus boarding point. Every time i visit towns and observe the lifestyle of people, there pops up my craving to move to one.

Having missed the Iruttu Kadi halwa, the other option left was Shanti sweets at the junction. Jostling with the crowd was a tough task and got the few kilos I had to buy for everyone as a customary measure. And there ends my yet another sojourn, though a casual one this time!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tanjore Big Temple Part II

We will explore the outer parahara and the small shrines within the temple complex in the part II of our journey of through this Chola marvel “The Big temple”.

I found one interesting read while mining about this temple which I would like to share with the readers –

The basic unit of the temple's layout, says and expert was taken from the main deity, the linga itself. The inner sanctum, the height of the vimana, the intermediate space between the vimana and the cloistered enclosure (Sri Krishnan Tiruchuttru Maaligai), and the distance to the two gateways called Keralantakan Tiruvaasal and Rajarajan Tiruvaasal were all proportionate to the linga in a remarkable way. For instance, the height of the vimana is exactly twice the width of the outer base of the adhistana (plinth) of the sanctum. The expert says: “The mathematical calculations were advanced to a great extent at the time of Rajaraja Chola.”

The temple complex measures about 240 m east to west in length and about 120 m north to the south in breadth. Experts estimate that the vimana alone has utilised 17,000 cubic metres of masonry. The entire temple complex with its vast enclosure and two gateways amounted to almost 50,000 cubic metres, which is 130,000 tonnes of granite. There no big stone formation in 50km vicinity of the temple and the huge granite stones were brought from the Tiruchi area and the huge stone for the linga was brought from Tindivanam area.

Outer prahara of the temple, observe the nandi sculptures on the wall

Note the small hemispherical formation on the walls, such protrutions were used for interlocking

Inscriptions on the outer wall

There are inscriptions on the walls of the temple complex detailing Raja Raja's reign as well as that of his successors. They reveal that Raja Raja endowed a large number of villages, money and cattle to the temple for its maintenance, daily worship, festivals, singing of devotional songs and dancing. It even gives details of the 400 devadasis of the temple and their door numbers in the two streets near the temple. The administration setup and complete details are also available in the inscription.

Sculptures on the outer wall of the main sanctum

Tripurantaka episode , dont mistake it to be that of Budha(even the guide misguided me on this)

Angry elephant during a war

During the world war II, armed personnel were stationed inside the temple, here APF is Armed Police Force

After spending time around the vimana of the temple, i started towards the small shrines which were added during the later periods ...

Shrines in the temple complex

Ganapathi Shrine

This shrine was added to the temple complex during the period of Sarfoji II.

Subrahmanaya Shrine

Sevappa Nayak, the first of his dynasty who ruled Thanjavur, built the shrine for Murugan (Subrahamanya) as an integral part of the temple. This is a very elaboratory carved granite structure.

Goddess Sri Brihannayagi

This shrine is a later addition, built by the Pandya’s in the 13th century and the front mantapa was added by the Nayak’s.

Karuvurar shrine

Karvarur shrine is located at the rear portion of the temple complex. He was a yogin-alchemist and architect who played a key role in the design and construction of the temple. His famous works are Karuvoorar Vaidya Kaviyam 700, Karuvoorar Pala Thirattu.

Had to these shrines pretty quick as sun was going down and i had to shoot my snaps. Whatever 3 hours i could spend in the temple just seem to have given me a introduction to this wonder and looks like days are required to unravel and appreciate this architectural marvel.

Some quick facts which will help a traveller :

- The Big Temple is located in Tanjore very close to the Old busstand and railhead. Tanjore is well served by town bus services.

- Tanjore is well connected by road and rail. Railway station code - TJ.

- The nearest airport located in Tiruchi is 55kms away.

- Hotel accomodation of all classes is availabe in Tanjore and food is something to cherish once you are in the delta area.

- I would recommend a curious explorer to avoid the summer months as they turn out out to be extremely hot in this area.